New Zealand Christian group in smacking ban warning

The campaign group has warned that a ban could criminalise good parents.
The campaign group has warned that a ban could criminalise good parents.
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Campaigners in New Zealand who organised to fight a ban on smacking introduced a decade ago claim it has had a “chilling” effect on parents.

Family First NZ, a conservative Christian campaign group, called on Scots to oppose plans to introduce legislation at Holyrood which would ban smacking.

The Scottish Government has said it will support a member’s bill brought forward by Green MSP John Finnie to scrap the legal defence of justifiable assault and add Scotland to the list of 52 countries worldwide where physical punishment of children is outlawed.

The move has the support of all parties in the Scottish Parliament except the Conservatives, but has attracted criticism from some religious groups and parents’ rights campaigners in Scotland.

Bob McCoskrie, the national director and co-founder of Family First NZ, claimed the move will criminalise good parents and harm children.

“A decade on from the passing of the controversial anti-smacking law in New Zealand, the law has maintained its very high level of opposition, but most significantly the law has had a ‘chilling’ effect on parenting and rather than tackling rotten parents who are abusing their children, it has targeted well-functioning parents,” Mr McCoskrie said.

Family First NZ quoted police statistics suggesting the law introduced in 2007 has had little wider cultural impact in New Zealand, with significant increases in reporting of child physical and sexual abuse since it was passed. A 2016 survey also found that two-thirds of parents in New Zealand say they would be willing to flout the law, while a 2011 study suggested a third of parents had been threatened by their children with being reported to the police if they were smacked.

The earlier survey found one in four parents of young children reported feeling less confident dealing with ‘unacceptable behaviour’.

“New Zealanders predicted all of this before the law was passed, but their concerns were ignored,” Mr McCoskrie added.

“The politicians and anti-smacking lobby groups linked good parents who smacked their children with child abusers, a notion roundly rejected - and still rejected – by New Zealanders. We would warn Scottish parents that this law will harm and rip apart families..”

The Scottish Government has said physical punishment can have “negative effects on children which can last long after the physical pain has died”.